Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pascack Hospital Marks Debut

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pascack Hospital Marks Debut

Article excerpt

Governor Christie returned Thursday to a parking lot in Westwood where, as a candidate in 2009, he declared that local residents "deserve and need" a hospital. Back then, the lot was weedy, the hospital empty. This time, there was a party tent for 500 and a huge sign on the newly renovated building announcing that Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley will admit patients beginning June 1.

Between those two appearances, health officials in the Christie administration declared a need for a new 128-bed full-service community hospital in the area, even with five other hospitals in Bergen County. In 2012, the state approved the first new hospital license in New Jersey in a generation for Hackensack University Medical Center and its joint-venture partner, LHP Hospital Group.

The ribbon-cutting for the for-profit hospital on Thursday gave the governor, who is at the start of his reelection campaign, a chance to receive the praise and ovations of residents and local officials of the Pascack and Northern valleys.

Recalling the sweltering weather during his 2009 campaign appearance, Christie said he was thrilled to participate in the reopening festivities on another hot, humid day.

"This type of process is never easy," he said of the five-year road from the bankruptcy of the former Pascack Valley Hospital. Without naming The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, whose many-pronged legal challenges ended only last year, he acknowledged there had been opposition.

"There are always extraordinary competing interests that need to be heard and considered in a society like ours," Christie said. "But ... I am proud of [state Health] Commissioner Mary O'Dowd and her staff for doing the hard work needed to make sure they got to the right results here. I'm comfortable that's exactly what they did."

"He delivered on his promise," Robert C. Garrett, Hackensack University Health Network's chief executive officer, told the crowd. "The governor's support has allowed us to fulfill our vision."

Westwood Mayor John Birkner, a Democrat, welcomed Christie as the possible "next president of the United States" and acknowledged the bipartisan cooperation among local elected officials in the "Save Our Hospital" effort, which included lawn signs, a referendum, petitions, rallies and public hearings. …

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